Bulgaria once led the way on LGBT+ rights in emerging Europe. Not any more.

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09/14/2020

LGBT+ people have once again become the scapegoat of the Bulgarian government, but the community keeps fighting for a normal existence in the country. Extreme demonisation of the country’s LGBT+ community first began in 2018, and surrounded public discussions regarding the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. Now, amidst the current anti-governmental protests in Bulgaria, LGBT+ individuals have once again found themselves at the centre of controversy. Bulgaria legalised homosexuality in 1968, decades before most other countries in emerging Europe. Despite this early win for equality, topics surrounding sexuality and gender remained obscure in the country until the collapse of its communist regime. Even then, newly established LGBT+ organisations faced opposition similar to that seen in most of the Orthodox Christian societies of emerging Europe. But it was the possibility that Bulgaria might ratify the Istanbul Convention that sent certain segments of society into a frenzy. Perhaps more so than ever before. The Istanbul Convention is a European Council human rights treaty aimed at preventing violence against women and domestic violence. According to Ruzha Smilova, a political theory lecturer and a researcher at Sofia University, in an article for the Oxford Human Rights Hub, one major reason for the strong retaliation to the convention was something as simple as an unfortunate translation.

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